On Fumes - My Experiences with Stress & Burnout
Three of four years had gone by already. I was a senior anesthesia resident, working toward a career in one of the more sought-after paths in medicine, let alone in a field that is repeatedly rated as one of the most satisfying lines of work. I fancied myself as a hard-working resident and a good physician who cares about her patients. But my stress management skills were so poor that I was literally making myself sick.
While seeking to preserve life for others, something inside of me was dying. I could taste the bitterness building in my blood, and the cold hospital air further crystallized the acids. As fellowship applications came due and other residents mulled over their future possibilities with excitement, I couldn’t even fathom the concept of practicing medicine after graduation. I knew it was time to DO SOMETHING. My health, my relationships, my psychological state were all suffering… and for what? Was it all worth it?
Prior to residency, I had a career and well-rounded interests. While there were some difficult rotations and experiences, medical school was for the most part positive and exhilarating. Internship began with the excitement of new responsibility. On this steep learning curve, micro-adjustments to my daily technique resulted in what seemed like substantial gains in my performance, work efficiency, and satisfaction. The amount of medical knowledge to assimilate during this period was great, but there was no way to move except forward.